A few weeks ago, I carried the story of Mark McGowan a.k.a The Artist Taxi Driver’s #wheresdaddyspig protest. Currently in treatment for bowel cancer, he pushed a toy pig more than 3 miles from Kings College Hospital to No 10 Downing Street, in a bid to raise awareness of the privatisation of the NHS. Today, he’s at it again! This time, he’s headed to the Bank of England…and he’s not alone.
From One Pigsty to Another
The event is designed to protest what Mark refers to as ‘the pigs in the trough of our public services’. The complicity between parliament and the private sector in transferring public services and jobs into the private sector in order to make a profit has never been as great or as dangerous as it is today.
Mark has been joined by a Firefighter who is pushing a toy fire engine, protesting the ongoing and worsening cuts to the nation’s fire service. Hundreds of people have joined, with their own toy pigs, and hundreds of thousands are watching on live stream and following the twitter hashtag #wheresdaddyspig.
What’s the Pig Deal?
Some might wonder why on earth a cancer sufferer and a firefighter chose to spend their Wednesday pushing toys 4 miles around London. To some, it is still news that the country is being quite literally sold out from under us. For those people, a rundown of some key issues the #wheresdaddyspig protest is out to shine a light on.
According to the National Audit Office, The UK National Debt rose by £850bn as a result of the Bank Bailout. This is almost twice the nation’s total annual budget. For this amount, the UK could have funded the entire NHS (£106.7bn a year) for eight years , our whole education system for twenty years (£42bn a year) or provided two hundred years of Job Seekers Allowance (£4.9bn a year).
Not a single banker has lost their job or faced a court of law for the illegal and immoral behaviour that broke the global economic system. Instead, a lie has been woven that their behaviour was unethical but not illegal. This is for a judge to decide, not parliamentarians. Charles Ferguson lays out the case for prosecution most eloquently in his book Predator Nation.
Whether it is rigging the LIBOR rate, PPI Mis-selling, Money Laundering for Drug Cartels, or Busting Trade Sanctions – the Banking Sector continues to break the law and receives only paltry fines in ‘punishment’. These fines come nowhere near the profit of committing the crimes, so Banks can now treat them as no more than a transaction fee on their criminal activity. While Bankers remain immune from the consequences of their actions, there is no incentive for them to change their behaviour. This must stop.
HSBC was recently found guilty of creating a whole subsidiary bank in order to launder money for Mexican drug cartels. This bank now owns three NHS hospitals in Barnet, Middlesex and West Middlesex. In fact, 91 pieces of tax payer funded public infrastructure, mostly schools and hospitals, has been transferred into the ownership of banks. The Banks set up shell companies to complete these deals, registered in offshore tax havens, in order to avoid paying taxes.
The Private Finance Initiative whereby government borrows from the private sector at twice the rate it could create the money itself, is bankrupting the NHS. Already, 22 of the 103 NHS trusts to enter PFI are facing financial difficulty due to the exorbitant PFI repayments. Some hospitals are having to handover a fifth of their annual budget on paying for the PFI deals.
Parliament also passed the Health and Social Care Act which enshrined competition rules in law for the first time – and is more aptly titled ‘The Death of the NHS Act’. This means all but a small minority of NHS services will be put out for competitive tender to private companies in coming months. This will simply add further layers of cost and complexity to a public service already buckling under the strain, while removing accountability for the service from the democratic process.
The NHS is being eaten alive by rapacious, relentless profiteers with zero interest in human dignity or public health. Sadly, a significant proportion of MPs and Peers have a direct or indirect personal financial stake in private healthcare companies that will profit from these laws. They are all in it together.
In 2001, private firm AssetCo won a £20m deal to supply London Fire Brigade with its fire engines. Last year, the entire fleet of engines was sold to a private equity firm for just £2 after AssetCo went into administration. This means the government allowed an offshore, private equity firm to buy London’s fire engines for less than the price of a happy meal. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
London is also about to lose 12 fire stations, after Mayor Boris Johnson announced the closures as part of a cost cutting exercise – this will mean 500 firefighters losing their jobs. This pattern is being replicated across the country.
Firefighters are facing a rise in the retirement age from 55 to 60 – despite research showing that 66% of those tested aged 55-60 fell below the high fitness levels required to serve as a firefighter. The government insists that these over age, under fit staff can be redeployed elsewhere in the service – but where? Recent research by the Fire Brigade Union showed 16 deployment opportunities to cover more than 41,000 serving firefighters.
As the cuts, station closures and job losses have kicked in, there has been a sharp rise in firefighters killed in the course of their duties. Ceaseless reorganisations, cuts, watering down of terms and conditions – all this constant meddling is costing lives.
Support the Protest
Right now, a cancer patient and a firefighter are on their hands and knees, followed by hundreds, watched by hundreds of thousands, crawling through the streets of London to the Bank of England. The mainstream media completely ignored this protest last time, and Facebook appeared to censor those of us sharing the story online. So, do not miss it this time. It is proof positive that anyone, anywhere can make their protest in an innovative way. Hundreds of thousands of people will hear about this protest and get access to information they may otherwise have missed. Our biggest challenge is changing minds, to break people out of the insidious web of illusion, mythology and outright lies which divide us rather than unite us. Kudos to Mark, Jamie the Firefighter and those hundreds braving a cold, grey Wednesday morning in London to support them in their efforts to do just that. We can change our world one mind at a time.
You can watch the protest live here
You can donate to support The Artist Taxi Driver’s film project ‘This is Not a Recession, It’s a Robbery’ here.
You can follow events on twitter at the hash tag #wheresdaddyspig
Please share this article on all your social media networks to help raise awareness of this awesome protest and the crucial issues it exists to address.
Photo Credit: @chunkymark